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  • Writer's pictureBruce

Day 1: Las Vegas

When it comes to travelling, I usually like to plan at least a few months in advance. After a couple of somewhat impulsive trips last year, I’ve discovered the joy of just going for it. This time, my team was moving buildings at work so we had to be out of the office for a couple days. With this new impulsive mindset, I decided to take a short trip. I have a bunch of perks with my credit cards that really work well with this kind of trip, so I would be able to indulge without spending much.

My day started at 4am because I had an early flight and wanted to do some lounge hopping. After a quick ride to Sea-Tac and a near empty TSA PreCheck, I headed over to my first stop at the N satellite gates, Bambuza. This was a new Vietnamese restaurant that participates in Priority Pass. As such, PP cardholders get $28 off the bill, making this a very valuable perk, especially in the US where there aren’t many good PP Lounges. The food at Bambuza was fine - reviews are mediocre at best, but for a free meal it was better than many lounge offerings I’ve seen. The prices were quite high and I would be disappointed too if I paid $25 for Pho and a Vietnamese coffee. Since I didn’t, I actually really enjoyed the nice hot broth on the cold winter morning in Seattle.

After that, I took the train back to the Main Terminal to my second breakfast stop, the Delta Sky Club.

Now most people wouldn’t be too excited to visit a Delta Sky Club, which are generally mediocre and serves the basic cold continental breakfast in a dated and crowded setting. Seattle, however, was an exception. Just as Sea-Tac’s Centurion Lounge is one of the smallest and worst locations in the network, their Sky Club is one of the largest and best. It occupies a massive amount of space right next to the Centurion Lounge in between the A and B Gates, both of which serve predominantly Delta flights. The lounge has a huge seating and buffet area, flanked by massive floor to ceiling windows, with views to the runway. There’s even a second floor to this lounge, which sits above the buffet area. The breakfast buffet spread was quite decent - nothing groundbreaking, but definitely better than a typical US lounge breakfast.

I also explored the upstairs area which was completely empty but featured a nice mini art gallery along its wall. It had a small refreshment station, but you would need to come down for actual food. I stayed till about 6am at which I decided to go next door to the good ol' Centurion Lounge. There was no wait to get in, unlike in the afternoon or evenings, but it was fairly packed. Initially the food spread was pretty light, which is the case in the first hour or so of opening, but soon the hot foods were brought out. I was too full from the first two breakfasts so I went straight to the bar, which is the highlight of any Centurion Lounge. Given it was early morning, the only socially acceptable beverage would be a mimosa.

I stayed here until my boarding time of 6:45am. As an honest basic economy passenger, I waited until the very end to board this full 737 taking me to Las Vegas. We had a short de-icing from the frost, then took off over a beautiful sunrise.

The 2 hour flight was mostly uneventful. As we came in the land, we were briefly put into a holding pattern. Once we got on the ground, we were delayed again due to VIP aircraft movements. I realized that the Democratic National Debate was tonight in Las Vegas and candidates were flying in. Before landing, I wrestled with whether or not I should work remotely today or just take the day off. Ultimately I went for the latter, so there was no rush to make my morning work meeting.

I took a Lyft out to my first hotel, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. This was my second time here - I got engaged at the Cosmo last summer. Out of all the Vegas hotels, Cosmo is amongst my favorites. It has a modern decor, very luxurious, incredible F&B options, a fantastic spa, large rooms with a private terrace, and participates in both Marriott Bonvoy and Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts. That last point was important as since this was an impromptu solo trip, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money and wanted to milk my Amex Platinum Card for all it was worth. I checked in at the Autograph Lounge next to the main check-in area, reserved for Marriott Platinum Elites and higher.

I booked this stay via Amex FHR as a post-paid stay (meaning I pay at the hotel instead of through Amex Travel). This allows me to get both the FHR benefits and the Marriott Platinum benefits at the hotel. I opted for the $10 F&B credit as my Marriott welcome gift and the agent proceeded to explain the numerous FHR perks. This included noon check-in, guaranteed 4pm late check-out, room upgrade to the Terrace Studio (2 categories higher than the base room I booked), and a $100 Spa credit. It also included breakfast at the Wicked Spoon Buffet, one of the best in the city. Even better, the check-in agent said I could use it both today and tomorrow despite only staying for 1 night, and I could use it anytime during their brunch hours which is 8am to 4pm, making it a great lunch option. The room was also ready at 11am, so I headed up to the 58th floor of the Chelsea Tower.

Cosmo’s rooms are quite large at 620 sqft plus an additional 110 sqft terrace. The bathroom was luxurious and checks all the boxes of a five star hotel: marble clad, double vanities, deep soaking tub, large shower, and a separate water closet.

Unfortunately, they were all out of king beds so I had two queens, which were obviously redundant for one person, but they were very comfortable. In front of the bed was a massive TV - at least 65-75 inches. The chaise lounger was very nice in the living room, facing a second TV.

The terrace was very spacious and refreshing on this sunny February day. I faced the Aria City Center complex and the south strip (MGM, Luxor, Mandalay Bay), which was not a bad view but not quite as nice as the Bellagio Fountains, which is one category higher (although much noisier).

After settling in, I went back down and headed across the street to Planet Hollywood. One of the many little travel hacks that you can do with the Amex Platinum (or any mid-tier hotel status) is status matching to Caesars Rewards Diamond. I won’t go into detail about status matching in this post, but there are plenty of articles out there on how to do this. Caesars Diamond has several notable benefits including: no resort fees at their properties, skipping lines, free monthly show tickets, and even a free annual trip to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. However, my favorite benefit is the $100 celebration dinner. It’s essentially a $100 discount off any restaurant in a Caesars property. I planned on using this for dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen. I actually forgot to bring my Caesars card from last year, so I went to Planet Hollywood (a nearby Caesars property) to pick up a new one.

By now it was past noon, so I went back to the Cosmopolitan for some lunch. I went to the Wicked Spoon buffet, which was free from my FHR benefits.

There wasn’t much of a line, but FHR guests and Marriott Elites get to use the VIP Line, which can be useful during peak hours. Wicked Spoon is widely regarded as one of the best buffets in Las Vegas, a prestigious title in a city famous for buffets. Wicked Spoon changed the buffet game when it first launched, focusing on quality instead of quantity. They often include some unusual items you don’t always find at a buffet like bone marrow and duck wings. They also serve many of their dishes in small bowls and plates, which is very aesthetic but also prevents people taking too much and wasting food. I’ve been to Wicked Spoon several times and it’s always a nice treat, especially when it’s free. The duck wings, pork belly, and squid ink pasta were some of the standouts this time. With a lighter crowd, I did notice some of the food tend to sit a bit longer, although the taste was still great. You can almost make Wicked Spoon like a multi-course fine dining experience. I had a “palate cleanser” Tangerine sorbet before indulging in a wide selection of desserts with coffee, in my version of “afternoon tea”. I would say this is well worth the $28 if you don’t have it included in your room.

Later in the afternoon, I headed out on a short walk around the City Center complex. I was tracing the steps I would take to move hotels to the Waldorf Astoria the next day. Along the way, I passed a CVS, so I popped in to get a large bottle of water. Cosmo surprisingly doesn’t stock free water in the room, although you can get pick up free mini water bottles in the Autograph Lounge. After that, I took a detour through Aria and walked back to the Cosmo. By now it was around 4:30pm, so I got my things and headed down to the spa.

As a Marriott Platinum and booking through Amex FHR, I had a 15% discount on all spa treatments and a $100 credit. Now to be honest, that doesn’t go very far at the Sahra Spa, but it makes it a lot more bearable if you want to give yourself a nice treat. I really enjoy using a 5-star hotel’s spa facilities, which in most cities are free (a hidden benefit that is not very popular, but incredible). However, Vegas hotels typically only include the spa facilities for guests who have a treatment booked or bought a day pass. Since a $40 day pass wouldn’t use up the full credit, I decided to book a 50-min Hammam. At the original list price of $205, it was pretty expensive (which is why I’ve never done it before). But with the discount and the credit, it came to about $70 plus tip.

I came down a bit early for my 6pm treatment so I could relax in the spa facilities. I used this spa on my engagement trip last summer so I was familiar with the layout. It’s not huge, but it has all the things you would want in a top notch spa. Service is excellent but also not intrusive, which is great for a place where you just want to relax and not talk to anyone. The highlight is the massive jetted hot tub with a waterfall in the main wet area. Since there are so few guests, you can usually have this whole place to yourself, which is surreal. The sauna and steam room are great, but my favorite is the cold mist room which is also infused with a eucalyptus aroma - really refreshing after all the hot areas. Then there are the soft day beds with unlimited towels and a very comfortable robe. I could literally fall asleep here. Fruit infused water, iced tea, small artisanal cookies, and trail mix were available in the lounge area where I waited before my treatment.

When the time came, I was escorted up the stairs to the Hammam treatment room. It was very large, but reserved only for me, with a massive round stone table in the center. Everything in the room was heated, from the floor to the stone. I laid down on the stone and started the treatment. The attendant scrubbed me down then poured buckets of warm water onto me, which felt great. Then my body was covered in bubbles, which was amazing. At the end, I went to the private steam room for 10mins and I had fig butter massaged into me. My skin felt so soft afterwards. I used the wet facilities again after my treatment and stayed until just before the spa was closing at 8pm.

After an incredible spa session, I went up to my room and got changed for dinner. I had a 8:45pm reservation at Hell’s Kitchen, a restaurant I’ve wanted to visit since watching Hell’s Kitchen Season 17, where this was the grand prize. I tried to go last year, but the timings didn’t quite work out. It is very hard to get a reservation, with most reasonable dinner times filling up months in advance. My 8:45pm slot was one of the last remaining and I made this booking almost a month in advance for a random Wednesday in February. I enjoyed my walk over to Caesars Palace, past another signature performance of the Bellagio fountains.

The weather was cool and crisp - a nice change from the 40+ degrees back in August. As I walked in, there was a digital display of Gordon Ramsay welcoming me in, and a wall of pictures of every Hell’s Kitchen winner.

I was promptly seated with a great view of the open kitchen, which had the same Red team/Blue team decor as in the show.

I went for the signature 3 course prix-fixe menu for $86++. The first course was the famous scallops dish that so many chefs mess up on the show. Unlike the show, this was perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious.

The second course was the classic beef wellington. I’ve had a lot of steak in my life, but this filet was just incredible. This was a truly memorable course - every element was perfect, from the puff pastry, to the mushroom pate, to the prosciutto wrap, and even the sides. It was also a surprisingly large amount of food and I was pretty full by the end of it.

Dessert was a sticky toffee pudding. This is another classic Ramsay dish and it was so delicious. Very rich, but also super soft and flavorful. I would have preferred a smaller portion but it was really good. I was completely stuffed by the end of the it.

After tax, the meal came to $95, a perfect use of the $100 Caesars Diamond Credit. The server was also really nice and friendly, so I made sure to ask for another receipt just so I could leave a tip, since otherwise it would have been fully covered by the credit. After dinner, I needed to walk this off, so I strolled through the Forum Shops and the Bellagio Conservatory, which was decked out in Chinese New Year arrangements.

Finally, I took a bath in my room which actually had jacuzzi jets built in, and called it a night. What a great day off.

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